Album Review: Glen Campbell – Meet Glen Campbell

Matt Clark | August 21st, 2008

Glen Campbell - Meet Glen Campbell Glen Campbell has accomplished something unique and extraordinary: he’s recorded a cover album that doesn’t pay homage to anyone except Glen Campbell.

There’s a very important difference between Meet Glen Campbell, Campbell’s album of famous pop songs, and the recent forays into pop music by contemporary country stars: Campbell doesn’t sing like someone who really, really loves The Foo Fighters and Tom Petty. He sings like an aging yet still vital artist who, no longer the recipient of Nashville’s best songs, has chosen an alternative path to discover “new” music. Thus, Meet Glen Campbell is refreshingly devoid of imitation and hero worship, and even when famous songs are not reinterpreted, they’re reimagined.

Much of this reimagination is indebted to the unusual compromise that resulted in Campbell’s first non-Christmas studio album in fourteen years and his reunion with Capitol Records, Campbell’s home during his superstar years. Producer Julian Raymond wanted to record new versions of Campbell’s greatest hits, but Campbell and Raymond settled on reinterpreting famous pop songs in the Campbell style in a manner that ranges from subtle to unmistakable: “Angel Dream” is built around “Gentle on My Mind” and the introduction to “Times Like These” is nearly identical to the one that made “Wichita Lineman” famous.

That Campbell is able to meld these two influences nearly flawlessly is testament to the fact that for a significant portion of his career, Campbell was a bona fide pop star. He cut his teeth as one of the most sought-after session guitarists in the country before touring with The Beach Boys as the replacement for Brian Wilson in 1964 and 1965. By 1967 Campbell had hit it big as a solo artist with pop and country hit “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and in 1969 Campbell sold more records than even The Beatles, fueled by hits “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston” and an appearance in the motion picture True Grit. Campbell’s sound has always had one foot in Los Angeles and one in Nashville and his hits catalog is dotted by successful pop covers.

That background lends Meet Glen Campbell a remarkable credibility and results in a product that actually sounds like a vintage Glen Campbell record. Indeed, Meet Glen Campbell serves as a needed reminder of just how good pop-country can be: the richly textured arrangements, featuring Campbell’s virtuoso guitar work and support from Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) and Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction), are sophisticated without being artificial and sonically rich without becoming loud, while Campbell’s 72-year old voice packs a one-two punch of technical and interpretive ability: find another living legend who can hold pitch while mournfully bending “falling out of grace” in “Jesus.”

It’s a mistake to interpret the excellent Meet Glen Campbell as a legacy record ala Johnny Cash’s American Recordings or Porter Wagoner’s Wagonmaster; indeed, Campbell remains too vital to deserve such terminology. Rather, I interpret Meet Glen Campbell as a quiet yet assertive message to apologists for the mediocre practitioners of modern pop-country, to those who ascribe the condition of mainstream country music to evolution and minimize the talent disparity between modern stars and their forefathers: meet Glen Campbell.

Meet Glen Campbell Trailer:

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  1. mikeky
    August 21, 2008 at 9:09 am

    i’ve been listening to the advance copy of this for the past couple of months and i love every second of it. my only problem is the length of the cd: it’s only 10 songs long. there just needs to be more of it. it’s too short. campbell’s renditions of these songs are superb–they should have released more of them.

  2. Chris N.
    August 21, 2008 at 9:28 am

    I believe you’re thinking of Brian Wilson, not Brian Williams. Although I would sure as hell enjoy seeing Brian Wilson read the news.

  3. Kelly
    August 21, 2008 at 9:37 am

    I felt like his version of “sing” by Travis was too much of a copycat. I love the original, and I do like campbell’s version as well, I just wouldve liked to see a bit more of a departure from the british original, I suppose, since Campbell is about as opposite of British as you can get.

  4. Matt C.
    August 21, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Whoops. For the record, I do know the difference between Brian Wilson and Brian Williams.

  5. Chris N.
    August 21, 2008 at 11:18 am

    “And now the news from around the country: Well, East Coast girls are hip, I really dig those styles they wear …”

  6. Baron Lane
    August 21, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Excellent review, I couldn’t agree more. Campbell proves that there can be a connection between trad and pop country without slipping into mediocrity.

  7. Chris N.
    August 21, 2008 at 11:43 am

    I’ll concur that this is a beautiful album, btw. It keeps drawing me back.

  8. Brody Vercher
    August 21, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    I have the big hits from Campbell scattered across my iPod, but other than that I’ve never delved too deep into his catalog. I usually hear the term pop-country and let out a groan, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this album. And like Baron said, excellent review.

    For anyone who hasn’t heard it, you can listen to the whole thing on Spinner.

  9. Rick
    August 21, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    I’d like to add a comment about the statement: “By 1967 Campbell had hit it big as a solo artist with pop and country hit “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and in 1969 Campbell sold more records than even The Beatles, fueled by hits “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston” and an appearance in the motion picture True Grit.” The main reason Glen sold so many albums during that period is because “The Glen Campbell Show” was a top rated television show at the time. Glen’s performances his variety show were always superb and he often had John Hartford there with him. Glen featured great musical guests from both the country and pop realms and the show was thoroughly enjoyable. Glen’s TV show and “The Johnny Cash Show” were two of the best musical variety shows ever aired on the major networks and made later shows like “The Barbara Mandrell Show” seem like sonic fluff in comparison…..

    Is The 9513 going to have a give-away contest for some of these albums? I’d like a shot at one!

  10. leeann
    August 21, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    I liked this album better than I thought I would, but not nearly as much as this review. I thought he sounded disconnected to some of the songs, particularly “Walls”, a song that I love from Tom Petty, but didn’t love so much from Campbell. I also thought his string section drowned his voice out on some of the songs. In that vain, one of the major things that keeps me from fully embracing Glen Campbell albums is his love of the strings. I’m just not big on too many symphonic strings in my country music I guess. I was surprised by how clear his voice was for a 72 year old though. And over all, I was surprised by how much I did end up liking it in the end.

  11. Matt C.
    August 21, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Yeah, if you can’t stomach strings, you can’t stomach Glen Campbell.

  12. leeann
    August 21, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I must have an unreasonable dislike for strings though, because he has four or five digital albums on Amazon for$ 3.68 each, but I still can’t make myself buy them. I have a 20 GH collection, but don’t know if buying those other albums, even at their low prices would be worth it for me. I go back and forth though, because I really like his voice and a bunch of his songs.

  13. Matt C.
    August 21, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    I’d buy his All the Best album. It’s rather large for a single disk collection (around 22 songs, if I recall correctly), contains all of his hits and ought to be enough Campbell for you to have a credible country music collection.

  14. leeann
    August 21, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    I don’t have it with me right now, but is it the one with the orchestral version of “King Of the Road”? If so, it’s the one I already have.

  15. Rick
    August 21, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    The only album of Glen’s I have is the 1990 release “Walkin’ In The Sun” because I really liked Glen’s cover of the old Lefty Frizzell song “She’s Gone, Gone, Gone”. The nature and quality of the songs included on that album were all over the map, which dissuaded me from pursuing any more……

  16. Matt C.
    August 21, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    Leeann, no, it’s not. Here’s the track list for All the Best: 1. Rhinestone Cowboy 2. Galveston 3. Wichita Lineman 4. By the Time I Get to Phoenix 5. Gentle on My Mind 6. Southern Nights 7. Country Boy (You’ve Got Your Feet in LA) 8. Dreams of the Everyday Housewife 9. It’s Only Make Believe 10. I Wanna Live 11. Try a Little Kindness 12. Sunflower 13. Dream Baby 14. Honey, Come Back 15. Let it Be Me 16. True Grit 17. Houston (I’m Coming to See You) 18. Don’t Pull Your Love/Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye 19. Highwayman 20. I’m Gonna Love You 21. Where’s the Playground Susie 22. All I Have to Do is Dream 23. Hey Little One 24. The Last Time I Saw Her 25. Everything a Man Could Ever Need

  17. leeann
    August 22, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Ah, that is pretty different than the one I have. Thanks. I’ll look into it. A couple of the titles sound familiar for other artists. I wonder if they’re the same songs.

  18. Dan Milliken
    October 28, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    I have to say that the more I’ve listened to this album, the more I agree with this review. I find the epic takes on “Times Like These” and “Walls” pretty incredible considering how much they change up the originals, and “Good Riddance” and “Grow Old With Me” are the only two tracks I don’t really care for. I’d probably call it a four-star myself.

    Anyway, belated props for a great review and especially cool last paragraph.

  19. Der Senator
    October 28, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    This is just about the most informed and insightful review I’ve read of this CD, and I’ve read most of them. You get it because you get Glen.

    By the way, anyone wanting to explore his work a little deeper than the big hits would be well served to check out 1978′s Basic. A statement of artistic cohesion made at a time when Campbell’s life was starting to become quite disorderly, it’s an interesting snapshot of a specific point in time, and maybe his best “album” taken as a whole.

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